Friday Jukebox: Never Too Much
I think you could make a pretty strong case for Never Too Much from Luther Vandross being the perfect pop song. The best pop music is rooted in soul, soul in the broadest sense of the word. Pop music should be catchy, make your day better, but it also needs to be underpinned by something more, something impossible to properly define, yet you know it when you hear it. There needs to be an otherness, a magic.
Never Too Much has that magic. I think it is easy to forget just how astonishing the song is, as the song is so familiar. If you’re out and about of a weekend, or listening to one of the more upbeat classic pop radio stations, then you’ll probably hear it, enjoy it, and move on. But next time, listen properly.
The song itself perfectly welds together all manner of hooks, yet you can’t tell the joins. There are great melodic hooks, rhythmic ones, even the pauses are catchy. This song has the best silences since Motown’s heyday. Vandross certainly knew how to write a song, but he also knew how to arrange and produce a song to the best effect too. Everything is in service to the song, some great complexity worn lightly. Try singing along, or even tapping along. It is really, really hard. Yet the song sounds effortless.
Never Too Much is one of those great start of the weekend songs. An old friend to comfort and to lift the spirits. A completely non-guilty pleasure. It evokes a particular time, but is not weighed down by it. It will never be just a curio of a past age.
Sometimes there is the worry that if you analyse a piece of art it will fall apart, be forever spoiled, as you’ll just see the constituent parts, rather than the whole. Yet listening to Never Too Much just enhances the wonder and deepens the mystery. How does is sound so smooth and natural, yet be so precise and faultless? How does the interplay between bass and strings, lead and backing vocals work so harmoniously, bringing each element to the fore at the right time? How does this song never age? How do I never tire of it?
Like all great music, all great art, there are as many questions as answers. That’s what makes great art last, why we keep coming back.